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Called to Serve: Angelina Jackson ’04 Becomes Voice for the Less Fortunate

Dayton, Ohio native Angelina Jackson ’04 is the oldest of four siblings. After 18 years of navigating the cold, snowy weather of the Midwest, she decided it was time to ditch the Ohio Valley. After high school she moved to sunny Florida to attend Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. With her bachelor of arts degree in English secured four years later,   Jackson took a position as a merchandiser at JC Penney. Her ultimate goal, however, was to become a lawyer. This decision led her to return to Ohio and enter the College of Law.

During her summers in law school, Jackson worked at the Cincinnati offices of Dinsmore & Shohl. After finishing her studies, she returned to Dinsmore, where she worked for almost four years.  While there, Jackson had the opportunity to practice in many different areas of law, including general civil litigation, medical malpractice defense, and commercial warranty litigation. This was balanced with appointments from the Hamilton County Public Defender and the Volunteer Lawyers for the Poor Program. 

While she enjoyed her work at the firm and her career benefited from her experiences there, Jackson felt as though she was not yet doing the legal work she was meant to do. “Part of the reason I chose to go to law school,” she says, “was to be a voice for people who society doesn’t listen to.”  In an era in which law students are often encouraged to value the corporate climate for the many benefits it has to offer, she felt a calling to seek a position that would allow her to represent poor and marginalized people full time.  When an opportunity came for her to shift the direction of her career, she took the chance.  In 2008 Jackson left Dinsmore and joined the Ohio Justice & Policy Center (OJPC) as director of the Race & Justice Project.

Life Changes Prompt Career Change

A big part of what prompted her to change careers was the birth of her daughter, Amaia Noelle, two years ago. “When Amaia was born, I began to think about the lessons I wanted to impart to her about life.” She continued, “Above all, I want to teach her to be true to herself, her values, and her passions.” Jackson realized she wanted her daughter to grow up seeing those lessons exemplified in her own actions. This led her to seek a career that allowed her to pursue her passion for fighting injustice and discrimination.  “My daughter is what motivates me to get up and do what I do every day,” said Jackson.

Jackson says she feels fulfilled by her work at OJPC because she has the opportunity to change the way people are treated by the criminal justice system.  Although her work can often take an emotional toll, Jackson emphasized that there are many benefits to her work.  Accordingly, her work with OJPC has the potential to make a huge impact, not only on the lives of individual people, but on the community as well.  

Although her career and her daughter keep her busy, Jackson takes advantage of the free time she manages to find for herself.  She likes to hang out with her daughter, lift weights, cook, read, and go dancing with her friends.  When asked what it is that makes her successful, Jackson replied, “I am very blessed and I am a very determined person.  I believe that there is not much that cannot be achieved through commitment and hard work.”  This sentiment comes through loud and clear in a conversation with Jackson; her dedication to her career, her daughter, and herself are inspiring.

A Primer on the Ohio Justice & Policy Center

In general, OJPC represents people marginalized by the criminal justice system and advocates for local and statewide reform of the system.  The Race and Justice Project addresses disparities in the way people of color are treated within the criminal justice system, and works to eliminate racism in Ohio’s criminal justice system.  (For more information on OJPC and the Race and Justice Project, visit the website at http://www.ohiojpc.org/main.html ).